Wednesday, February 27, 2008

IRB World Series?

Via Rugby Planet:

Clash of hemisphere champions on the cards

The International Rugby Board (IRB) will discuss plans to stage a one-off match between the Six Nations and Tri-Nations champions when the governing body meets with rugby union's leading nations in Hong Kong on Sunday.

The idea will be the main focus of talks between IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset, deputy Bill Beaumont and the four home unions, France, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand at the Tier One CEOs meeting.

The possibility of a global tournament to run in between World Cups is also expected to be explored.

Hong Kong, set to host a Test match between Australia and New Zealand in the November, has already indicated they would be extremely interested in staging any 'best of the best' clash.

"We believe Hong Kong would be an excellent venue for such a game," Allan Payne, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union executive director, told the South China Morning Post.

"Part of our strategic plan is to look at hosting international matches and it would be a tremendous honour if we were asked to host this match."

Officials from both the Wallabies and the Kiwis will arrive in Hong Kong this week to look into facilities available for what would be the first encounter between the two sides on neutral ground outside of a World Cup.

Although the match is yet to officially be confirmed, Payne is confident there will be no obstacles preventing the IRB-sanctioned clash from going ahead.

"While nothing's been finalised yet, all parties, including the government, have welcomed the idea with great enthusiasm," added Payne.

"This support should give rugby officials a big boost as they make a play to host the touted global championship."


UPDATE: "Hong Kong? Phooey!" say the old heads:

[Brian] Moore, who won 64 caps for England, expressed concern that any such a project would not necessarily be a good thing for the game.

"I'm sure it will make a lot of money but I'm not really sure if it is of particular benefit to rugby," Moore said.

"The game will be a sell-out wherever it's played so it will be a good way of making money from a one-off match, but do we really need another game? ... We're already talking about player burn-out from too much rugby so to add another a game, and all the travelling which is associated with that, seems a bit unnecessary."

Former Wales captain Gareth Edwards was also sceptical of the idea, and echoed Moore's fears about the impact on players, but could see the benefits of such a match.

"We all want to see the best play the best so I can definitely see the attraction in having a game like this," Edwards told PA Sport.

"From a commercial point of view I can see how it is appealing to those who run the game but we have to worry about how many games the players will play and the timing of when you have such a match.


Hong Kong Rugby Football Union executive director Allan Payne has already indicated they would be extremely interested in staging any clash.


Let me see if I can keep all of this straight:

a) British rugby journos, players and fans moaned and gnashed teeth when the 2011 RWC was awarded to New Zealand instead of Japan.

b) The tournament must be held in Asia, the Brits insisted! We must grow the game globally!!

c) Hong Kong RFU exec director Allan Payne wants a 6N vs. 3N championship to grow the game in Asia -- same region of the world as Japan -- and presumably, "globally."

d) British rugby journos, players and fans re-load, moan and gnash teeth, this time angered about IRB actually doing something to promote and develop the game in Asia and interest across the world.

I scratch my head, wondering how it is that perennial no-hopers Italy were ever added to the Six Nations championship; how it is that Brits regularly demand Argentina be added to the Sanzar Tri-Nations schedule; and yet how it is that we're supposed to believe ONE single extra game to determine a 6N vs. 3N "Superbowl"-type championship to be contested in the heart of Asia is a really bad scary doomsday boogeyman scenario that will burn out rugby players and add meaningless games to schedules, etc. IMO if there's a big trophy and the trophy is promoted properly, then the championship won't be meaningless, at all.

I'm not so old that I can't recall a great many vocal British rugby experts pooh-poohing and tut-tutting the concept of the Rugby World Cup back in the mid-1980s with the same pessimistic excuses. Somehow, Gareth Edwards got it exactly right the first time:

"We all want to see the best play the best."

Period. Stop. Bingo! Amen.


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